Sunday, May 14, most Americans will celebrate Mother’s Day. Notice the singular possessive form of spelling. This is the standard and generally accepted usage. It was the format favored by Anna Jarvis, the acknowledged driving force behind the creation of the holiday, as you will see below, rather than the plural possessive. Her point that was each family should honor “the best mother, yours” rather than all mothers.
MD is celebrated all over the world in some form. Different countries have their own way of celebrating the day and even celebrate it on different dates. Some countries have replicated the US traditions – hallmark [or email (tacky)] card, flowers, chocolates, and family outings or gatherings; others have incorporated it into other holidays honoring women or mothers; and in still others, a combination of the two has evolved.
According to The National Restaurant Association based on decades of research MD is the busiest day of the year for restaurants. Nearly one-half of customers eat out for dinner, but many opt for breakfast, brunch or lunch. The traditional custom is to give mom a break from kitchen duties and take her out to a nice restaurant to celebrate. And why not? Doesn’t she deserve it? (On the other hand, on Father’s Day the restaurants are relatively empty as many fathers are put to work barbecuing.) Can you name the second-busiest day of the year for restaurants according to the same survey? See answer below.
Moreover, according to a recent poll of some 1,000 Protestant pastors conducted by Lifeway Research MD is the third busiest day for attendance at church. Can you guess numbers one and two? See below.
Estimates of the average cost of MD gifts vary. According to the National Retail Federation the average MD gift this year will cost about $274, an increase of roughly 10% from last year. According to the website “RetailMeNot” the most popular gifts are greeting cards, flowers (roses being the most popular), chocolate and gift cards.
As always, traffic on the roads will likely be heavy during the holiday weekend. So, plan to leave early, and use your trusty GPS. Additionally, one can expect the usual delays at the airports and train and bus stations due to weather complications, security concerns and heavy usage.
In the US MD was first celebrated in 1908 when the aforementioned Anna Jarvis held a special memorial for her mother. Ms. Jarvis had been campaigning for the country to recognize a day to honor mothers since 1905 when her mother had passed away. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed an official proclamation establishing the second Sunday in May as MD. It was to be a day to honor mothers and the concept of motherhood and their contributions to society.
Eventually, Ms. Jarvis became disillusioned with the commercialization of the holiday. By the 1920’s the greeting card, retail, candy and flower industries were all marketing their products aggressively to take advantage of the holiday. Jarvis strongly advocated that people should demonstrate their love and respect for their mothers through personalized, handwritten letters instead. Being a person of action she organized protests and threatened boycotts of these industries. At one point, she was arrested for disturbing the peace at a candy manufacturers’ convention.
Despite her efforts, commercialization of the day has continued to grow. Americans, in particular, tend to demonstrate their love in tangible, material ways through the giving of gifts.
As I stated, MD is celebrated in many countries in different ways and at different dates. For example:
1. The most common date is the second Sunday in May, which is May 14 this year. Besides the US, some of the countries that celebrate it on this date are Canada, Italy, the Peoples Republic of China and Turkey.
2. Some countries, such as the UK, Ireland and Nigeria, celebrate it on the fourth Sunday of Lent. The UK incorporated it into a previously existing holiday called “Mothering Sunday,.” which dates from the 16th Century.
3. Many Arab countries, such as Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia celebrate it on the vernal equinox (March 20 in 2023).
4. Russia used to celebrate MD on March 8 in conjunction with International Women’s Day, but in 1998 the date was changed, by law, to the last Sunday in November.
5. Bolivia celebrates it on May 27, which is the date of an historically significant battle in which women played a key role.
6. Since 1950 France has celebrated MD on the fourth Sunday in May, except when the date conflicts with Pentecost in which case it is delayed to the next Sunday.
7. In Israel the day is celebrated on Shvat 30 on the Hebrew calendar, which normally equates to between January 30 and March 1 on the US calendar. In the 1990s the name of the holiday was changed to “Family Day” in order to recognize the modern structure and roles of the individual members of the typical family.
8. Hindus celebrate MD on the new moon day in the month of Baisakh (April/May).
As I said, MD is one of the few truly internationally-recognized holidays. One of the charming features of the day is the variety of ways and dates on which it is celebrated. This is derived from the differences in customs and cultures around the world.
One thing is certain now and will remain so prospectively: on this day the mother/wife is truly in charge. Men, remember the adage “happy wife, happy life.”
Finally, men, all together now, let’s repeat the two-word mantra for a successful marriage:
Quiz answers: (1) Valentine’s Day. (2) Christmas Eve and Easter.